Peril at Somner House


In this charming mystery, the young, yet-to-be-published Daphne du Maurier is cast in the role of younger sister to her more authoritative and socially forward elder sister Angela, who drags her along to a wintry retreat on an isolated Cornish island. Naturally, there’s a murder, and no one can leave the island for days due to the stormy weather—the classic British “drawing room” mystery set-up. I could hear the plummy tones of the compatriots of Lord Peter Whimsy, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, among others of the same ilk, as we are led in and out of the library, the dining room, the conservatory, and of course the dramatic half-ruined tower overlooking the sea.

Despite the well-worn, familiar setting, we are drawn to the feisty Daphne as she becomes aware of and tries to solve the many secrets of Somner House, one including her own sister. She is struggling to be a writer, and for those of us who have attempted the same, her fears and doubts are indeed all too familiar, and we can easily sympathize. There are a few twists and turns in the plot which are well worth the suspense, and even the romantic sub-plots have enough of reality as well as ingenuity to them to render this a fun and engaging book.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award






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